Palmetto City Commission’s arrival to its first public hearing for its 2016-17 fiscal year budget, which begins Oct. 1 was no quick affair, but it was quick action Monday night to move the $26.4 million budget to its final hearing on Sept. 26 at city hall.
Commissioners and staff went several rounds early in the budget process to overcome a $528,000 budget shortfall, $300,000 of it was the result of an employee salary study that boosted many salaries across the board.
The contentious battle between staff and the city commission on how to balance the budget led to the possibility of raising taxes. However, in a 3-2 vote on Aug. 1, city commissioners shot down a staff request to raise taxes to meet the shortfall. An effort spearheaded by Commissioner Tambra Varnadore and backed by Vice Mayor Harold Smith and Commissioner Brian Williams left the millage rate flat.
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A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of appraised property value. The millage rate will stay at 5.9671, however it is 5.57 percent greater than the rollback rate of 5.6522, meaning the city commission would have had to lower the millage rate by that percentage in order for it not to be a tax increase, according to Florida statute.
The city’s overall budget encompasses $11.2 million in its general operational fund. It’s biggest expenditures include $279,312 for city commission and mayor salaries, a $4.6 million police department budget, $651,862 for parks and recreation, $658,299 for its finance department, $773,709 for public works administration and $2.1 million for the city clerk’s office.
If the citizens of Palmetto have to live within a finite budget, then so does the city.
Palmetto Commissioner Tambra Varnadore
The fee-based department budgets were balanced coming into this year’s budget cycle with $1.5 million in the road and bridge fund, $2.1 million in the solid waste fund, $6.3 million in the water and sewer fund, $1 million in the stormwater fund and $273,442 in the reclaimed water fund.
Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said the excess revenue taken in from higher property valuations this year, about $178,000, would be used, “for personnel, capital projects and infrastructure needs in the city.”
City department heads made several cuts to balance the budget at the behest of Varnadore, who previously said, “If the citizens of Palmetto have to live within a finite budget, then so does the city.”
Bryant said in order to truly fund the city’s needs into the coming fiscal year, particularly infrastructure, the city would rely heavily on the effort to pass a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot. The city’s portion would be about $1 million a year that could be used for capital projects, infrastructure needs and public safety efforts.